Greatly enjoyed Louis Theroux's trip to the Westboro Baptist Church on BBC2 tonight. The congregation (mostly descendants of a patriarch named Gramps) hate gay people with a bizarre intensity and believe that the Iraq war is God's punishment for the decadent tolerance of homosexuality in America. They therefore picket funerals of American military personnel and celebrate the troops' assassination at the hands of Iraqi insurgents. It's apparently the will of God rather than Osama bin Laden.
Check out http://www.godhatesamerica.com/html/faq.html for one of the weirdest set of FAQs you're ever likely to find on the web.
Two things struck me as particularly odd about the Westboro Church. The first was that although they crusade against gay sex, they're also keen to avoid the heterosexual version. The young women in the group claimed not to be interested in men and didn't even consider the possibility of getting married. (If Gramps had taken the same view, these young women wouldn't be here today, but that point seemed to pass them by.) To them, marriage was a distraction that would just take up too much time. How could you possibly get hitched when you had a funeral of a dead soldier to picket?
The second weird aspect of the dogma was the belief that no one else on earth met the criteria for admission to heaven or seemed likely to qualify in the near future. We can only assume that life beyond the Pearly Gates is therefore some kind of extension of the Church's own back yard, perhaps complete with pickets and placards. The only difference would be the absence of the six billion fallen sinners that surround them here on earth. When Louis questioned whether the Church members really were the only people going upstairs on the Day of Judgement, he was told that if anyone else were preaching the true word of the Lord, news would surely have reached them by now.
Weird and wonderful telly.